Archive for September, 2008

Nearly everyone who has experienced verbal abuse in a religious setting feels disillusioned. It’s a typical human response. You’ve been hurt, and your natural inclination is to “throw the baby out with the bath.” Because you don’t want to be hurt again, you withdraw emotionally, or you lash out at those who have hurt you.

That’s very normal-even predictable; but I would like to challenge you to look at what happened from a different perspective, which may be very helpful to you.

Forget about what happened or was said about you and the person who said it—at least for a moment. Just put it aside. When you do, try looking at this from the Lord’s position. In order to mold you for His purposes, you had to be a broken. Without being broken, you didn’t really need to depend on Him. You could depend on yourself for most things—and did. It isn’t that you needed to learn a lesson as much as you needed to unlearn things.

When you think of it from this perspective, your problem had a purpose—a Divine purpose. Don’t continue to live in the deception of disillusionment. Thank God for what happened. I know it’s difficult, but it will help turn your despair into strong, resilient joyfulness-not all at once but over time.

Do it today. If you do, you’ll be amazed at the emotional freedom you experience.

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This is a great comment on My Spirit Was Crushed.

Gratitude is an important concept. It should be the norm but it rarely is. You are exactly right, Jack. If gratitude is you bent, it is very difficult to form or hold a grudge. Actually, your growth at this time in your life is as much fueled by your growing spiritual maturity as the release of the various bondages you had carried for so long. This was indeed a liberating part of your excellent book Hi My Name Is Jack.


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An excerpt from my story: Hi, My Name Is Jack

Thinking back, I remembered meeting with John Brown at my fraternity in 1964. He told me God loved me and had a wonderful plan for my life. In my nineteen-year-old mind, I thought God’s plan would make me more successful and spare me from some of the debilitating problems that destroyed so many. I loved what I heard from John and embraced it readily. But it wasn’t really true—at least not the way I interpreted it. God wanted me rich in character, and He would go to any lengths to accomplish His goal. I was a hard case; it took quite a bit of effort. It still does—unfortunately.

I also thought of AA and why God had delivered me from compulsive drinking. Perhaps it was so that I could have a deeper understanding of what was important in life and share my insights with others—as I’m doing now. Regardless, in all of my difficulties, returning to alcohol never seemed like a worthwhile option; and I remained sober.

In the year that followed, while in the valley, I learned the values of joy, kindness, and longsuffering. There was no other way for me to embrace positive character qualities than to learn from my many mistakes. It just wasn’t in my nature to choose a softer, easier way. Irishmen are like that. It’s why people love us and hate us at the same time.

Going to church again became routine for me, and I decided to join The Church of the Faithful. To join, however, I had to give “my testimony” so that they could see if I was really a born-again Christian or not. I sat down with an assistant pastor, James Sexton, who wore a gray suit and a pleasant smile After some small talk, he asked me to begin, and I did. I told him the whole thing—in abbreviated form, of course; and he sat there and let me talk. Normally, these interviews lasted about thirty minutes. Mine required two hours, and James’s face was the same gray color as his suit when I finished. But he was not critical, not in the least—just interested and accepting.

I joined the following Sunday morning and have been a part of this church ever since, participating in many—but not all—of the activities there. I especially enjoy my small group where I’m completely accepted. Some things were looking up, and Connie’s time of stalling was about to come to an end.

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An excerpt from my story: Hi, My Name Is Jack

Often in life, it’s the little things that count, and that’s what happened with me. By expressing gratitude for what I had—rather than focusing on what I didn’t, the dynamics of my life changed completely. From that precise moment, I started developing a thankful attitude instead of the negative, defeated one that had typified my life for the past couple of years. Without Judy to tell me how worthless I was, I started believing that God still loved me and had a plan for me—a plan that had a future and a hope.

When I awoke each morning, I looked forward to the day rather than dreading it. I was alive again; and because I was, one more chain was broken, freeing me to be the kind of man God always intended me to be. Gratitude and acceptance had set another part of my soul free. I stopped blaming people and circumstances for my lot in life. I wasn’t a victim; it all had a purpose which I would understand at some point. Having several experiences with trusting God, when I saw no way out, helped—a little.

By embracing gratitude rather than resentment, it became much easier to develop an attitude of forgiveness—which I did. Interestingly, the person who was really set free by the forgiveness was me—not Connie, Barbara, Judy, or anybody else. From that point forward, I stopped bemoaning my lot in life, choosing instead to believe everything that had happened was for a purpose—a purpose I would eventually discern. This made it much easier not to hold a grudge against any of them.

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From My story, Hi, My Name Is Jack.

At the same time, I knew how destructive suicidal ideations were and that a lot of my self-destructive feelings might be from low blood sugar; so I decided to eat the stale cereal. Getting up from my chair in the living room and going to the refrigerator, everything changed—in the twinkling of an eye, so to speak. From the living room to the refrigerator was thirty feet. In the time it took me to walk that distance, my entire life changed, and it has never been the same since. While walking, I realized, “I have something to eat.” In the crucible of all of my troubles, God did not leave me hungry; I had food. He was taking care of me in the midst of all of my tortuous circumstances. So I thanked Him for providing nourishment—not a perfunctory blessing, which the self-righteous love so much, but a deep, heartfelt thanks that came from the depth of my soul. “Thank You, Father, for the food I’m about to receive. Thank You.”

God likes that kind of stuff—big time. He knows the difference between genuine gratitude and elegant, but meaningless, drivel. It took two seconds to say, “Thank You”; that’s all—two seconds. When I was done, I sat down and enjoyed my food—free from any self-destructive thoughts.

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For the next few days, I’m going to share a chapter out of my personal life, which shows how far God can take you when you let Him. It’s out of my story, Hi, My Name Is Jack.

Be sure to read each part.

With Judy gone, along with her duplicity and manipulation, it was much easier to focus on Barbara Billings and all of the fraud she brought into my life. Dealing with “my CPA” was neither as difficult to do nor as emotionally draining as I expected, and it was nice to have one more part of the problem resolved. I was making progress. In truth, however, Barbara was the smallest and least stressful issue on my plate.

My biggest problem was my inability to satisfy the constant flow of creditors with their insatiable need for payment—money that I just didn’t have. In the past, I had been used to making a substantial income. Because I worked for myself, I was able to expense most of my entertainment, travel, automobiles, and restaurants. My lifestyle had been quite comfortable for years, and it was very difficult to be constantly broke—especially since I had earned so much more than I had. I went from making more than $100,000 a year for ten years to making minus $17,000 in 2000. That’s right. I spent $17,000 more than I made, and it wasn’t enough—not nearly enough. The creditors kept hammering at me—more, more, more. Their grinding demands took a toll on me at every level of my life. It became debilitating.

It became so difficult emotionally that, one Saturday night, I didn’t have a dime. There was nothing to eat in the house—other than stale cereal and a little milk to go on it. I was hungry. My spirit was crushed, and I thought the world might be better off without me. At least, my insurance would pay off all my debts—with enough left to finish my child support for Jordan. This was it; suicide seemed the only way out. I was at absolute rock bottom. I had never felt sorrier for myself in my entire life—not even close. I had no desire to go on and wished I were dead. That’s exactly how I felt, and I thought of how I would exit this world.

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PART 2: Why I Write “Pushing Jesus”

Here is another comment, which is right on target.


I realize you don’t do this for the rewards that come as result of this work. However, some rewards mean more than others.

Touching others with the Word of God, no matter in what language or format, is what real life is all about. When people get tired of their feeble efforts to construct a meaningful life of value out of denial of their problems and wrong beliefs, they harbor it is an act of pure grace for them to find real help in their time and position of need.

Pushing Jesus is touching some of these people and leading them onto a new path. One that, if they stay on it and pay the price, leads to a truth-based existence and a hope for a life that will make a difference for God. Just like your life is doing.


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Why I Write “Pushing Jesus”

When I started writing Pushing Jesus, I knew I had something to say and hoped it would help others to see the value of their relationship with Christ in another light. Today, I’m posting a comment as a validation of what I set out to achieve. It humbles me

Brother, this Value of Recovery: Part 5 is truly magnificent! Having known you for many years, my eyes fill with tears as I think of how beautifully God has woven the Arabian carpet of your life into a work of His artistic ability to make “chicken salad out of chicken s…!” The Kappa Sigs at Georgia need to give your letters to all the incoming pledges, so they’ll have the wisdom to realize that life — though tragic in many situations — can demonstrate the unfathomable love of God for his children!!!

Keep Pushing Jesus, Brother! I am so thankful for the depth of your common wisdom in such understandable language. You give an old pharisee like myself the challenge to see the grace of God not only in your life, but mine which reflects the natural disaster of relying on ourselves, and not God our Father!!!

May you continue in grace to Push Jesus with all your heart!
Thankfully your old Georgia pal in Jesus,


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Refer to STEP 3: I accepted that the responsibility for getting back on track was mine and no one else’s.

It doesn’t matter whether you think God is there or not; He is. His existence doesn’t depend upon your opinion, which is irrelevant. You might say, “I don’t feel God’s presence. It doesn’t feel like He’s there at all.”

How you feel about God is just that–your feeling-nothing else. Who He is does not depend on how you feel about Him, which should be quite liberating. He is there for you-no matter what.

Regardless about how you feel, you can count on this: He has not abandoned you, and your feelings don’t change that. You have not been abandoned-period.

If you depend on how you feel, your blood-sugar is more important than God’s promises in the Scriptures. Your life will be a never-ending roller coaster ride to nowhere.

God is there. Count on it. You can believe it because it’s true. That’s the reality you should never surrender. It doesn’t matter how you feel. God is there, and His love for you has not diminished in the slightest. Neither has His commitment.

This is the easiest thing in the world to do, but for most of us, it can also be the most difficult. It’s much easier to do something than simply believe, but that’s what you need to do. Learn to count on God’s presence as a reality and not as a feeling.

Take baby steps or crawl if you have to, but start the process today. Pretty soon, you’ll be up and walking.

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STEP 2: I refused to continue living my life pursuing self-defeating behavior.

When you’ve been abused, the damage goes deep inside you—to the tenderest, most vulnerable places. It seems to take the air right out of you, as well as the joy of being alive. It defeats and debilitates every fiber of your being, producing discouragement, disillusionment, depression, feelings of worthlessness, and low self-esteem. Instead of being confidant, resilient, and open, you retreat into a world of fear, becoming indecisive and tenuous–a shadow of who you used to be. Abuse devalues you in every area of your life, which is precisely what your abuser intended.

When I was a kid, I used to say this rhyme all the time:

Sticks and stones
Can break my bones
But names can never hurt me.

You remember it, don’t you? Whenever someone called me a name, I said it, and I believed it was true.

As I’ve thought about the rhyme as an adult, however, my perspective has changed. Broken bones heal and, over time, become a distant memory. Names, on the other hand, go deep inside you. Some names can cast a negative imprint on you, which lasts a lifetime. You never recover from them.

That’s the worst part of religious abuse. It lets you know you are unworthy—not up to snuff. Your very best isn’t good enough, so why try?

When you feel this way about yourself, you act accordingly. That’s why abused people turn to alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, overspending, over eating, illicit prescriptions, and suicidal ideations. If you believe you are worthless, you do worthless things. You’re behavior becomes self-defeating, and you become the person your abuser said you would be.

That’s what your abuser wants, but you don’t have to accept it. You don’t have to play the game. You can stop the self-destructive cycle, and become everything God ever intended you to be. It’s possible, but you have to make the choice to do so.

To recover, you have to recognize this pattern of behavior and make a conscious decision to abandon the “sin that so easily besets you.” It’s not easy, but you can do it. That’s why Step 2 is so important. It’s an act of the will. It’s standing up for yourself; it’s fighting back.

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Refer to STEP 2: I refused to continue living my life pursuing self-defeating behavior.

After you’ve experienced religious abuse, life changes—not a little but a lot. It’s never the same again—no matter how fervently you desire it. Sorry, but it’s just not possible. No matter how much you want to, you just can’t return to a life of naïveté and innocence. The reason is simple: you know too much. Your eyes have been opened.

Because this is not an option, many choose to throw in the towel, abandoning Christ and Christianity. Instead, they settle for half-lives consumed with bitterness. Having experienced abuse at the hands of a trusted religious leader, many refuse to become vulnerable again. Through cynicism and contempt, they harden their hearts, protecting themselves from further abuse.

At least, they think they are being self-protective, but they are wrong. By remaining bitter, they are actually validating their abusiveness, which holds them a prisoner to their past and a hostage for the future. They become stuck, unable to move emotionally or spiritually—trapped in a joyless life.

Is this where you are?

The good news is there is a way out—a way to become all that you know you are meant to be. God is still there for you waiting to reestablish you in a different way—a better way.

Having been wounded, like His Son, you can experience the abundant life He promised you when you first believed. But this time, you’ll have your eyes wide open, making you more useful. Although your life will be different, it will also be more fulfilling.

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Adversity makes you stronger—not a little stronger, substantially stronger. It’s like bodybuilding. Muscles need to be torn down before they can be rebuilt. The Scriptures call this pruning.

I needed pruning, and God is in that business—big time. Once I learned to accept—and even welcome—adversity rather than dread it or run away from it, I began to mature. In my case, I had no alternative. Each situation made me a little more of who I am today. None of this was easy. It was difficult and continues to be difficult, but the end result is worth it every time.

When adversity comes, and it will—stop, reflect, and align your resolutions with what you know God wants you to do. Reject the darkness and its binding chains at all costs. If you do, your character will be strengthened—regardless of the situation, and proven character has incredible value. It’s worth more than silver or gold.

Because I refused to allow my lifelong experiences to be a tragic waste—brushed under the rug, I’ve chosen to reveal them to anyone who wants to learn from my mistakes and the poor judgment I exercised most of my life. It’s all I have to give, but I give it to you freely. It’s what I’ve been writing about for months. It’s in your hands, nearly 200 entries, to do with as you will.

It all had a purpose. Because I know this with absolute certainty, I do not regret the past—nor do I want to close the door on it. My experiences—all of them—have left me richer in character than I ever dreamed possible. I’m not debilitated by my situation—nor am I bitter or resentful. On the contrary, it’s given me insight and understanding I’ve always wanted but have never been able to attain. For that, I’m truly grateful.

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I’ve consistently maintained that knowing the truth will set you free—truth about your abuse and truth about yourself. I believe this with all of my heart. I’ve experienced it. That’s also why I’ve let you into my life and allowed you to feel my failure, my pain, my embarrassment, and my naiveté. At the same time, you’ve also seen my growth, my strength, my conviction, and my steadfast determination to proclaim the truth—regardless of the consequences.

For me, I’m a stronger person because of all the failures and disappointments—not the other way around. I know who I am, and I like who I am. Those who sought to destroy me by being abusive have achieved the opposite. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m more resilient than ever. What was meant for evil, God meant for good.

My story may be complex, but the purpose for my life is simple. God wanted me to be a man of proven character, and it took every dramatic event, including religious abuse, to make that happen. This makes me a useful person—from the divine perspective; but it took decades.

When I went to graduate school in the 1970s, I wanted to know things, and I believed my purpose in life was to be a man of knowledge and profundity. God, on the other hand, wanted me to be a man of wisdom and proven character—not a subtle difference, but a far different thing. While in school, I learned many subjects and enriched my mind appreciably; but it didn’t make me the man I was supposed to be. It couldn’t because knowledge is just one component of wisdom.

It has taken each of these painful experiences and difficult situations to prune my character defects, enrich my soul, and enlighten my mind to see events from a completely different perspective—a new paradigm. That’s what I’ve done. I see things differently. I’m not stronger in spite of all that has happened to me; I’m stronger because of it. That’s the secret I needed to learn, and now I’m passing it on to you.

(More Tomorrow)

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Helping others look at life honestly—without medicating their pain or revising reality—is what makes my experience worthwhile. I’m firmly convinced it’s why God has allowed my life to be so adventurous in the first place. In fact, I’m sure of it.

In my head, I keep hearing the Lord’s voice—as gentle as a zephyr, saying to me:

Jack, it’s for such a time as this, I have brought you to this place. For a time—short though it may be, you can help many—perhaps millions. Be strong; be fearless; be transparent. This is your destiny. Accept it with dignity, helping all who ask.

If I can be there for you, reaching out to you with words of encouragement and exhortation, it makes my abusive past worthwhile. There’s so much pain and suffering—so much dysfunction—in the lives of nearly everybody I meet that experiences such as mine can and should be very helpful. I know this is true.

There’s a life of abundance available to you—regardless of your circumstances if you’re willing to work for it. Again, I know this is true; I’m not guessing. If I didn’t think so, all I would have is an interesting story. But it’s much more than that because the hope is real—and it’s powerful.

In America, millions live in fear of the truth, carefully concealing what’s really going on in their lives, believing exposure will make them look weak. But that’s an illusion. Freedom—true freedom—comes from being honest with yourself and with others. It releases you to be the person God intends you to be—a person who lives life to its fullest as it’s meant to be lived. There’s power in this freedom as well.

If you want to become a complete person, transparency and vulnerability are required. It’s not optional. There’s no other way. You have to let the truth cleanse the wounds left to fester in the dark places of bitterness, resentment, and un-forgiveness. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s strength. Only a strong person can stand the scrutiny transparency brings. Weak people have to mask reality because they don’t own enough of themselves to withstand the external examination of others.

(More Tomorrow)

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I also needed to be sober—just to make it through. Without sobriety, I think the magnitude of my difficult experiences—one on top of the other—would have overwhelmed me. Because I stopped drinking, which was my primary addiction, and did the work to become sober—lots of work over many years, I achieved my goal. I learned to discern the patterns and ascertain the truth. As a result, I have been able to differentiate between chicken salad and chicken you know what. I stopped being a little boy and became a man—much to the delight of those around me, including me.

Living a sober life required me to take a massive moral inventory—a level of honesty I had never known before. It was hard at first; but after a while, it became a way of life I welcomed. Honesty made me strong, and I’ve been able to share that strength with you in Pushing Jesus—candidly and consistently. It has helped me build the character qualities I long admired but found elusive.

By making myself vulnerable—at such an intimate level, I know I’ve touched nearly everyone who has read the entries posted. That’s why I’ve chosen to share my experience this way. I want to touch people where they hurt and tell them there’s a way out that works. It’s God’s way—a way filled with truth and light, and it’s available to all who are ready for it. There’s no “Easy Button,” but there is a guarantee. If you do the work–consistently for a long time–perhaps years, you will like the results.

If I had concealed my difficult experiences, refusing to expose my vulnerabilities and failures to you, what benefit would that be? The richness and value of my unusual sojourn would be lost, and I would be just another guy who led a unique life but seemed to always land on his feet. I wanted more than that—much, much more. By sharing my life, I’ve provided others with an example they can follow, and this has redeeming value.

(More Tomorrow)

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